War Eagles Soar
By: Jeff Doke
TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services
Of all the second-year coaches in the SEC, Auburn skipper Bryan Harsin is probably the most intriguing.
His first season at the helm of the Tigers saw the team go 6-7, almost upsetting Alabama in the Iron Bowl with a team that was more M*A*S*H unit than football team, then wrapping up the year with a final-minutes loss to Houston in the Birmingham Bowl.
After that, the real drama happened – assistant coaches resigning, multiple players diving into the transfer portal, and power-player Auburn boosters basically attempting a coup to remove Harsin for cause. The head coach survived, so now comes the real hard part.
Surviving the 2022 season.
Some elements are in place for this to be a much better season.
Tank Bigsby leads a stable of running backs that is easily top-3 in the conference. The receiver corps is solid if not exciting. T.J. Finley’s arrest means that it’ll be a smaller group of combatants for the starting QB nod.
On defense, the front four should be stout and once the offseason dings & dents get worked out, the secondary should be fine.
The secondary, by the way, includes Jaylin Simpson.
Simpson was the QB for the 2018 State Champion Frederica Knights team. This might be his final year on the plains and should be a showcase for him. Way-too-early speculation says he should be a second-day selection with an outside chance of being a first-day pick in next year’s NFL draft, should he declare.
Keeping in mind that, this is the SEC we’re talking about. Here’s our best estimation of what Auburn is going to do on the field this year.
WEEK 1 – vs. Mercer – I kinda wish this was at Mercer so Jaylin Simpson could re-live some 2018 memories. Maybe the score will be nostalgic enough. Auburn opens with a 48-0 win.
WEEK 2 – vs, San Jose State – Another cupcake, another easy win. The Plainsmen are going to need as many of these as possible as the season goes on. The Spartans are conquered 45-10.
WEEK 3 – vs. Penn State – The Nittany Lions took a close one at Happy Valley last year. Home field advantage makes the difference this year, too. Tigers take it 35-28.
WEEK 4 – vs. Missouri – The SEC schedule starts with a Tigers vs. Tigers match up. The actual southeastern team beats the out-of-their-league Midwesterners, 31-10.
WEEK 5 – vs. LSU – The last of the 5-game home stand to start the season sees another Tigers vs. Tigers matchup. This one will be the toughest so far, but we’ll say the home cookin’ makes the difference. Auburn victorious in a 21-17 scrap.
WEEK 6 – @ UGA – The Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry gets renewed for the 127th time. This is a tough game even on off years, but the reigning champs will easily hand the orange & blue their first L of the year, 35-17.
WEEK 7 – @ Ole Miss – While it’s always fun to see Lane Kiffin on the ropes, I don’t see him getting out coached at home this time around. Consecutive losses for AU, this one to the tune of 34-14.
WEEK 8 – vs. Arkansas – As the season grows nearer, mentions of Arkansas being the SEC dark horse get more frequent. While I like Sam Pittman, I don’t see him walking out of Jordan-Hare victorious. Auburn gets back on track 24-13.
WEEK 9 – @ Mississippi State – Another close matchup in the thick of the conference schedule. Low scoring affair that the Tigers let slip 13-6.
WEEK 10 – vs. Texas A&M – More than likely, this will be two teams battling for 2nd place in the west with an outside chance of them battling for first. Here’s hoping for a brawl for the ages with Auburn taking the shootout in OT, 43-42.
WEEK 11 – vs. Western Kentucky – a “get healthy” game in the leadup to the Iron Bowl. Easy 45-6 win for War Eagle nation.
WEEK 12 – @ Alabama – were it not for Tank Bigsby going out of bounds last year, this one might be the Tigers looking for 2 in a row. Stranger things have happened in the Iron Bowl, but I just can’t give them the upset (though I REALLY wish I could). BAMA rolls, 51-21.
FINAL RECORD – 8-4, 2nd Place in the SEC West.